Health Inequalities: Office for Health Improvement and Disparities — [Derek Twigg in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:07 pm on 26th January 2022.

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Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:07 pm, 26th January 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Twigg. I congratulate Peter Dowd on bringing forward this extremely important debate. It has been really interesting and, with many people contributing, it has been quite rounded. The hon. Gentleman spoke passionately and knowledgeably about the issue, as did other Members. We have probably done the issue a disservice by having only an hour and a half to debate it. I look forward to further debates.

It is time to shift the centre of gravity of the health system from treating disease to building good health. To do that, we have to focus on the people and places who face the worst health outcomes. That is why on 1 October 2021, we launched the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. The mission of OHID is to improve the health of our country so that everyone can expect to live longer in good health, and to break the link between people’s background and their prospects for a healthy life.

OHID is doing that by working with the rest of Government, the healthcare system, local government and industry, to bring together expert advice, analysis and evidence in policy development and implementation. As a number of hon. Members mentioned, covid has shone a light on the poor underlying health of certain groups in the population, the depth of health disparities and the implications for our health, economy and society.

Health disparities across the UK are stark. As the hon. Member for Bootle highlighted, in the borough of Sefton, where his constituency is located, the life expectancy deprivation gap is 11.8 years for women and 12.5 years for men. Health disparities can be driven by a range of factors, including education, income, employment and early years experiences. Therefore, OHID aims to systematically tackle the top preventable risk factors for poor health by looking actively at the evidence on health disparities and the ways in which we can go further to address them.

The new Health Promotion Taskforce, which was set up by the Prime Minister, will drive and support the whole of Government to go further in improving health and reducing disparities, because many of the factors most critical to good physical and mental health are the responsibility of partners beyond the health service. This new Cabinet Committee, now chaired by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, brings Departments together around the objective of reducing ill health and health disparities. It also provides a new opportunity to work together actively on the most important health issues and agree new ways to address them collectively. I hope that helps reassure colleagues that the new taskforce is at the top of Government, and is determined to bring all Departments together to tackle this agenda.